Clinch Mountain Echo

Recorded Live At Bluegrass Classic Frontier Ranch, Columbus, OH

(Bluegrass Classic Video No #) 1990

Live At Bluegrass Classic Frontier Ranch
Video Jacket Bluegrass Unlimited May 1989 Bluegrass Unlimited Dec. 1990
Sammy Adkins Ralph Stanley
Curly Ray Cline Junior Blankenship
Band Shot Band Shot

Although the show on this VHS tape is not dated, I think it's most likely to be from 24th June 1989,[1] a year in which the 'Bluegrass Classic' festival was centred around the various bluegrass bands Ricky Skaggs had played for.

The performances are mostly drawn from Ralph's afternoon set, with about 10 mins from the evening show. It is quite a perfunctory appearance, with little in the way of banter, instead almost like clockwork, the CMB's rattle through over a dozen numbers and medleys. Even when Junior breaks a string during his solo on Will You Miss Me, there's an almost imperceptible reaction, with Ralph and Junior quickly looking to see where the 'pop' came from... and Junior, cool as cucumber, does not miss or flub a note - just a quick nonchalent, re-tune of one string mid-solo...

The tape starts with three Stanley Brothers' classics, with Sammy Adkins and Ralph's vocals blending nicely.[2] Next are two Gospel tunes leading off with the title cut from Ralph's 'latest' album I'll Answer The Call and followed by I'm Willing To Try from Child Of The King. A medley of two Stanley Brothers requests (Choo Choo Coming/How Mountain Girls Can Love) follows, before another plug for their latest album with White Oak On The Hill. The afternoon set closes with will You Miss Me, and a short rather lack-lustre rendition of Orange Blossom Special (probably not helped by the Junior having left the stage to change the broken string).

The evening set seems to have started with the a cappella Gloryland and closed (or encored) with Hills Of Home. The latter is presented as a mix of 'Stanley Brothers' era photographs and live footage, ending with a montage of their LPs and instruments. In between there's a medley of Ralph's perenial firecrackers' Pretty Polly and Little Maggie...

The video features multiple camera's, and the sound quality/mix is pretty good. Picture wise, it's a VHS copy, so resolution isn't great and distant shots tend to be more washed out that some of the close-ups... and it is what it is... probably not good enough to reissue, but still worth seeking out.

One niggle - The artwork and advertisements indicate a running time of "60mins", but the tape is only 34:30 mins long including the copyright notice and credits... all the listed songs are however present if not exactly titled correctly.[3]

Given the theme of the festival, I wonder whether the sets on the video are truncated because any material featuring Ricky Skaggs had to be omitted? He was, obviously, still signed to Epic at the time.

This isn't an easy item to find. I've seen a couple listed on ebay in the last two years, both as part of a collection of videos. When it was first produced in 1990 the tape retailed for $30, which today (2016) would be $55 or £42...

As a 'solo' artist, Ralph played at The Frontier Ranch festival on several occasions, but had also played the venue with Carter. He was on the bill for the inaugural festival show in 1970; and played each year between 1978 and 1983. At the time, the festival was held over two days, with informal picking and contests on the Saturday, and 'name' band performances on the Sunday.

In 1984, Darrel Adkins took over as producer, and began developing the festival by increasing the duration and booking themed events.[4] This made it more successful, drawing in bluegrass fans from a wider area. He also introduced two large TV projection screens either side of the stage, so that fans could still get a good view of the band, even as the audience grew to over 15,000.

Presumably, it was the innovation of video screens that resulted in the availability of these tapes in the early '90s.

Under the new management, Ralph began playing again at the festival in 1985 through to 1997, missing only two years (1987 and 1996). 1997 appears to be his last performance there. In 1998, the festival moved to Hoover-Y-Park, and began being billed as 'The Bluegrass Classsic'; and from 2000 onwards as 'Musicians Againgst Childhood Cancer' (MACC).

The annual MACC festival continues to this day, raising funds for St. Jude's Research hospital, who cared for Darrel & Phyllis' daughter Mandy Adkins. In addition there are two 'all-star' bluegrass CD collections drawn from the festival, which also benefit St. Judes' and well worth checking out.

Darrel Adkins' has graciously given us permission to put the video on youtube. If you enjoy it, please support his MACC charity!

(Say) Won't You Be Mine

C. Stanley
I'll Just Go Away

C. Stanley
You're Still To Blame

C. Stanley
I'll Answer The Call

R. Stanley
I'm Willing To Try

Bob Fleming
Room At The Top Of The Stairs

Randall Hylton
Choo Choo Coming

Cuddles Newsome / William York
How Mountain Girls Can Love

Ruby Rakes
White Oak On The Hill

Mike Todd
Will You Miss Me

A.P. Carter
Orange Blossom Special

Ervin Rouse

Little Maggie

Pretty Polly

Hills Of Home

Wendy Smith / R. Stanley

Go To Top Of Page [1] On stage, Ralph mentions I'll Answer The Call as being their latest album, which came out in 1988. Ralph's next album, Like Father, Like Son was recorded in Dec. 1989, and Ralph II looks to be about the same age on the cover as he is in the video. Ernie Thacker isn't on the video, but although he joined the band in Spring 1988 he left after nine months, rejoining again in the Fall of 1989. As he's not featured on the video, and the festival occured in the 'gap' between him leaving and rejoining, that again points to 1989 as being the most likely date.
[2] Two of the Stanley Brothers numbers, Your Still To Blame and the requested Choo Choo Coming had also been recorded by Sammy Adkins and Ralph on Sammy's You're Still To Blame cassette.
[3] I'll Just Go Away is listed as I Just Think I'll Go Away; I'll Answer The Call as I Cannot Sing Like Angels; I'm Willing To Try as But I'm Willing To Try; Room At The Top Of The Stairs as Top Of The Stairs; Choo Choo Coming as Cho-Cho Coming; and Gloryland as Walk The Streets Of Gold.
[4] eg in 1988, he got Earl Scruggs, to perform a rare bluegrass set with Curley Seckler and The Nashville Grass (inc. Willis Spears and Marty Stuart). A rough video of the event shows, Ralph, Jimmy Martin, Chris Warner, Doyle Lawson (and others) watching from the wings:
Towards the end of the video, Ralph and Jimmy Martin are brought on stage with Earl for a 'photo opportunity'.